Wales Moves to Mandate Sustainable Drainage

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) may become mandatory for all large new developments in Wales.

The Welsh government launched a consultation on its proposals, which apply to all developments that cover an area of 100 square metres or more, on 22nd May.

It wants to amend schedule three of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which makes SuDS compulsory, and create the secondary legislation required to implement it.

The schedule requires surface water drainage for new developments to comply with mandatory national standards and for unitary authorities to create SuDS approval bodies (SAB) to sign off the design before construction work can begin. Infrastructure would not come under the scope of SABs.

The Welsh government created a set of national standards in January 2016, but was told by local authorities that their “non-mandatory status and lack of a clear pathway to adoption have limited their effectiveness”.

Where SuDS have been put in place they are “variable in quality and performance”, according to the government, and there is a “preponderance of hard SuDS... with fewer landscaped, vegetated SuDS that can potentially deliver multiple benefits”.

Under the plans, SABs would be required to consult with the relevant sewerage undertaker, highway authority, Natural Resources Wales and the Canal and Rivers Trust.

The adoption and maintenance of SuDS has been a sticking point in England, but the Welsh proposals are clear that the local SAB or water company should adopt them.

On maintenance, the government wants SuDS to be seen as assets rather than liabilities. It wants developers to submit a life-long maintenance and funding plan to the SAB for approval and then for the developer to set the plan in motion.

Maintenance could be undertaken by a management company, water and sewerage companies, local authorities and property owners or occupiers, according to the consultation.

An impact assessment on the plans suggests Wales would save nearly £1 billion in capital construction costs on the 110,000 new homes planned for country by 2021 if they installed SuDS that are compliant with the national standards, and that these would deliver benefits worth more than £20 million per year.

By comparison, England is soft peddling on SuDS. MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee (EFRA) criticised the government for its non-mandatory approach and said communities were being unnecessarily exposed to flood risk as a result.

In Scotland SuDS are already a general requirement and in March 2016 Northern Ireland passed a bill to end the automatic right to connect to drains. 

The consultation closes on 11 August.

Read the article at the ENDS report here.


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